Publication Date: 11/28/2017
My Rating: 5 Stars + (ARC)
From Kentucky’s finest Southern storyteller, Kim Michele Richardson returns following (2016) GodPretty in the Tobacco Field and (2015) Liar's Bench with her latest gripping mystery (her best yet), crime thriller: THE SISTERS OF GLASS FERRY –Rich in character, strong family bonds, suspense, and dark deeply-buried family secrets with a Southern Gothic twist.
Set in the southern riverside town of Glass Ferry, in the heart of Kentucky bourbon—a gripping complex multi-generational tale of three families and four generations. Told from two points of view (Flannery and Patsy), and dual timelines.
From 1952 to 1972 and beyond, meet the Butler family.
Mother Jean, father Honey Bee, and twin daughters: Flannery Bee and Patsy Jean. Their rival, The Henrys.
Even though wise Beauregard “Honey Bee” (dad) has passed on, his legacy lives on through his daughters. A bourbon distiller, he made sure his family was taken care of and taught his daughters to be strong.
Teaching them about guns, bullets, driving, and other things a man would teach his sons, and in particular, Flannery – the bourbon business, the river, chores in the barn, and his secrets (including his recipes) as he unburdens his soul to his thirteen- year- old daughter.
His rules still called from the grave.
Honey Bee had said, “Kentucky without its whiskey men, its stills, would be like New York City without business suits and buildings.”
Flannery loved everything about whiskey. Loved that Honey Bee had taught her the secrets of its doings. " She loved the dark earth and the mystery of its scent that tucked itself into a strange sweet growing time." Her sister was more like their mom.
Patsy had other friends besides her twin Flannery and Flannery felt betrayed and jealous. The mom referred to her husband's business as “the devil’s water.” However, Honey Bee thought his River Witch was respectable. After all, he was licensed and offered a true gentlemen’s whiskey.
However, there was a payback. They had to keep the sheriff's pockets full of fees (taxes). Sinful bribery by the Henry brood, in more ways than one. Carried down to the next generation.
However, Honey Bee always reminded his family the business had saved them throughout history, through the Depression and Prohibition. Only four licenses were handed out over the years in Kentucky and he was one.
Later, in the story, we discover there were also twin sons (Paxton and Preston) which died as babies. A big mystery is unveiled near the conclusion regarding a third family and the connection to the Butlers from decades earlier.
The story revolves around 1952 — the night of the prom. Patsy had a special date with her boyfriend Danny Henry. Danny the younger son. There was also the oldest, Hollis (bad news-troublemaker), and the father Jack which is the Sherriff.
The Henry’s looked down on the Butlers. Some thought being a twin was bad luck. A small town of half-truths, sadness, domestic abuse, rape, cover-ups, corruption, mental illness, and rumors. Spirits of the past. Unfinished business.
Patsy was the beautiful and curvy sister; whereas, Flannery was the smart one and not so beautiful. Patsy was closer to her mom and Flannery her dad. They were eight minutes apart. Patsy was protective of her younger sister. The girls did not always get along. Sibling rivalry.
However, prom night. The night it all went wrong – will haunt Flannery the rest of her life. The argument. The night Danny and Patsy went missing. From her mom’s sadness to the guilt of her sister.
The 1950 Mercury, pearls, prom night, a gun, bullet, two different brothers, twin sisters, Hospital Curve, Ebenezer Road and the Kentucky River.
The same river that had given Flannery so much would take yet another from her. The night Danny and Patsy went missing. They never made it to the prom. There was also the haunting day Patsy accepted a ride with Hollis three months earlier when Danny was flirting with Violet.
Now, Patsy is gone and Jean still makes a cake each year for Patsy and Flannery on their birthday. However, this year, a car was found in the muddy Kentucky River and the secrets of the past begin to unravel. They had all hoped the two runaway lovers had been living a secret life; however, a tragedy.
Two different twin sisters cannot seem to escape their tragedy and loss. Regrets. Secrets. One after another, trapped with no seemingly way out.
“Reckoning Day was why Flannery stayed precisely eight minutes ahead, looking over her shoulder for those lagging minutes when the devil might try to collect."
Flannery had the pearls. Her mom wants desperately to find the family pearls. Flannery would have to tell everything – both her secrets and Patsy’s. Flannery could only think of getting miles away from Glass Ferry. From her mom’s sadness, the rumors, and her guilt which only pushed her into yet another nightmare relationship.
Now twenty years later she returns.
What would Hollis do? A pact with the devil. The Henrys and their hold on this family, throughout generations. Precious moments lost. Brokenness and drowning misery. Is history repeating itself?
Flannery has to do something to help clear her sister’s reputation and name. The strong urge to avenge her sister. Will she have the courage, to tell the truth, or seek revenge? Justice.
In the background, there is also another intriguing mystery (icing on the cake). The long-dead midwife Joetta, alleged to have been a witch and a murderess. Does her spirit still haunt Ebenezer Road?
However, the parents kept one big secret which is yet to be unveiled. An old family matter. A secret box. A diary. Holding the key to the past. (A nice twist)!
Will the spirits of the past, continue to hover over the lives of this family? How far will a sister go to protect her secrets and seek justice for those she loves.
Riveting. Emotional. Compelling. Haunting. Beautifully written. A mix of psychological, domestic suspense, crime thriller, mystery, historical, and Southern Gothic.
A tale of heartbreak, and the strong bonds of family, balanced between destruction, regret, and redemption. The dark consequences that reverberate through the lives of three families, who will never be the same again. Love and loss.
Richardson’s best yet! Once you start reading, you will not be able to put this one down. These families will draw you into their web of secrets and lies across generations, keeping you turning into the night.
For fans of David Joy, Wiley Cash, Joshilyn Jackson, and Ron Rash.If you enjoy authentic Southern Gothic family mysteries, this one is for you. Ideal for book clubs (discussion guide included). My mom was a twin and come from a long line of family twins- always find them intriguing.
Highly Recommend! Have read all her books and a huge fan. Anxiously awaiting the next book. I enjoyed reading what’s next for the author: Add this one to your TBR list.
“I am currently working on my next novel The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, and have spent countless hours researching and exploring the Pack Horse Library Project of 1935. It is a fascinating tale of tribute about the fearsome librarians who traveled on horseback and mule to provide books to the poor and isolated communities in Kentucky.”
A special thank you to Kensington and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Beautiful covers (both book and audio)
Kim Michele Richardson returns following her Southern debut of Liar’s Bench (2015) with GODPRETTY IN THE TOBACCO FIELD, another Southern charmer; a coming-of-age tale of one girl’s strong determination beyond the small town of Nameless, filled with dark secrets poverty, tobacco, injustice and hardship--replaced with hope, family, and dreams for a better life if you believe.
Richardson visited the backwoods and rural areas of Western Kentucky in Liar’s Bench. In GodPretty she explores Appalachia-- its darkly coal rich mountains and the hardscrabble people of Eastern Kentucky
From the ugly tobacco fields Gunnar controls RubyLyn, with punishment. Anything to do with Gunnar and God, would mean punishment. However, RubyLyn is innocent, tender, and has a heart of gold. From ugly to beautiful. A story of poverty, oppression of Appalachian women in the sixties—the consequences, fears, and their limited futures.
Beautifully written, a Southern backdrop, infused with art, history, and music--from racial strife and the limitations of the South—especially for women--a look through the innocent eyes of a beautiful young girl.
At fifteen, RubyLyn lives with her uncle Gunnar Royal, almost sixty years old, in 1969 in the South in Namleess, Kentucky. She works the tobacco field every day and continues to receive abuse, both emotional and physical by her uncle. He took her in ten years ago, and he had made it his mission and sole purpose to chase out her parents’ devils.
Her daddy, the sin chaser and snake-handling pastor of Nameless, Kentucky’s Mountain Tent Tabernacle, died when she was four, and six months later her Mama passed as well. RubyLyn wonders why there is so much ugly. She misses her mama. She needs a strong woman in her life. Gunnar believes she must be pretty in the eyes of God and takes his punishments to the extreme.
At age, forty-four Rose is her salvation. Rose drives a truck and brings back items from Woolworths, to sell to the locals. She takes special care of RubyLyn as she knows she has no other female influences. From books, sketch pads, to frilly feminine treasures. She encourages her and her talents. She creates art out of ordinary tobacco paper.
RubyLyn liked the word—"folk artists". Rose says artists need good paper, and new places to visit to be inspired. She loves to draw and create beautiful things on her fortune telling triangles. Making her feel alive and closer to her Mama. Her ticket out of this town and life.
Henny Stump, her best friend, is so poor that her family resorts to selling their new baby. Her other neighbors, Beau Crockett and his three boys, are trouble.
Rainey Ford is a black field worker, and he always looks out for her. Over the past ten years she saw he had turned into a fine young man but a softness that made her heart sing. Gunnar did not care for Rainey’s lip, any more than RubyLyn’s sass--things he called sins. Will her uncle's heart ever soften?
The time is approaching for the date of the 1969 Kentucky State Fair the following month. She needs the prize money in order to get her a new life in Louisville. She would be sixteen in September and she knew if Rose made it there at thirteen…. she had a shot.
She kept her small hinged box. Her daddy’s stuff was long gone, replaced with memories; a tiny next of rescued threads from Mama’s clothes, along with the dried tobacco leaves and looms that Rainey had given her with his promise. They first met when he was eight and she was five—growing up together. Back then he had asked her to marry him sealed with a kiss.
Rainey is going off to Vietnam but they are in love and want to run away together, but of course, this would not be allowed. Of course, they know all too well, they will never be able to be together in this town. Black guys did not mix with white women. She knows if they can get away they could have a life together. She has read about places where they would be acceptable. They both know by staying in this town was as good as being dead.
Then there was Baby Jane she had to protect. RubyLyn knew when she left, she was never returning to the tobacco field, and unfairness of life, and her mean Uncle. From heavy hearts to a life RubyLyn may not every have. She has to believe in more than magic.
Kim Richardson has a warm genuine way of drawing you into the Southern world, with vivid settings and insights of a young girl. Her passion for her Kentucky roots is reflected through her writing and research of the areas.
Beyond the poverty and the hot dry tobacco field, and unfairness of life there is beauty. From dark secrets of the past, forbidden love, and of dreams. Readers will fall in love with RubyLyn!
I enjoyed the author’s notes and the phrase she created: "GodPretty, to show starkness in the brutal and beautiful land and its people and mysteries. To Gunnar, the term applied to females, pushing his strict moral codes on RubyLyn. He wanted his niece to be pretty in the eyes of God so he could protect her when he was not around—her soul would shine. Ideal choice for book clubs and further discussions.
Rich in history, character, magic, and especially land, which is an important theme of the book. Filled with music, and the sweet memories and excitement of youth and summers at the State Fair.
How poverty affects learning, habits, choices, and self-worth. As with the soil and land, our souls need nourishment and cultivating. The agricultural community is strong in the Bluegrass State–Kentucky,and still leads the nation in burley tobacco production, with more miles of running water than any other state except Alaska.
For Southern fans of Julie Kibler’s- Calling Me Home, Diane Chamberlain's- Necessary Lies, Mary Marcus'-Lavina, and Laura Lane McNeal's-Dollbaby.
If you have not read Richardson’s“Liar’s Bench”, highly recommend.
By Kim Michele Richardson
Publication Date: 4/28/2015
My Rating: 5 Stars
A special thank you to Kensington Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
LIAR’S BENCH, a powerful southern debut novel, by Kim Michele Richardson, a haunting, multi-generational chilling mystery, with a mix of coming-of-age, humor, and historical fiction--covering a century of deceit.
From racial injustice, lies, small town secrets, murder, corruption, two senseless hangings, and three strong heroines of different generations; grabbing you by the heart from the first page to the last, and never letting go. Lovable well-developed characters you will remember long after the book ends!
As the novel opens, it is 1860, and readers briefly learn of the nasty mistress of Hark Hill Plantation, Mrs. Evelyn Anderson who cannot seem to deliver an heir for her husband. Her faithful and innocent house slave, Frannie Crow has been raped and accused of poisoning her mistress. Of course after a jury of all white men, she does not stand a chance. They find her guilty and within a week the people line up on Town Square to watch the hanging- a proposed “poisoner and a thief”. Frannie goes to her death with no one knowing the real truth. She is innocent and her owners are the liars.
Afterwards, her son Amos is given the pieces of his mama’s gallows and two healthy hogs, along with his freedom papers. He is instructed to build a bench for the town square out of the wood left over to be called Anderson bench. But its legacy of misfortune drawn from lies, false promises, and tall tales earned the name of Liar’s Bench, the center point of the novel.
As we jump to 1972, we hear from our main protagonist, Mudas Elizabeth Summers, age seventeen, living in rural small town Peckinpaw, Kentucky, with her dad, Adam Persis Summers, attorney-- well liked in the small southern town. Of course, her dad also vowed to love her mom, Ella Mudas Tilley but he cheated and drank. More lies.
Unfortunately, Mudas had to leave her dad after the divorce, and moved with her mom to Nashville, where her mom learns to love her refreshments (liquor) after she began associating with the devil, Tommy. Before the age of nine, her mom had married a horrible and abusive man, Tommy Dale Whitlock and Mudas was in the way, so back to Peckinpaw--her mom drops her off to live with her dad.
Before this time, her dad quit drinking and cheating and begged her mom back with no success. Her mom later returns to Peckinpaw with Tommy and they have a daughter Genevieve. She becomes close to her mom with weekly visits when Tommy is not around; however, due to him she was not invited to live with them.
Now, her mom is dead, hanging from the rafters. She is heartbroken and knows it has to be druggie and abusive Tommy, or the nasty man, McGee; however, everyone says it was suicide. What does McGee and a ledger have to do with her death? She loves her mom, and knows for certain she would never commit suicide. She has find the killer and figure out the mystery--as we learn more about the events leading up to the murder.
Mudas is a smart, headstrong, passionate, and tenacious young woman. She is not like most girls- she is fighting in a man’s world of the deep south in 1960s and 1970s in a small minded town, in the middle of unrest and racial injustice, telephone party lines, the KKK, Vietnam, Civil Right movement--her school does not even allow for a proper women’s athletic program-- even though she is a runner with a promising scholarship.
A virgin, and naïve in the dating department, she misses her grandmother, long gone; her recipes, warm loving heart, and wise tales of scents of a man; how to know real love; now no mother to confide in. Like most girls from a small town, she has visions of success, an education, love, and a better life. With only one best girlfriend, she now has a best guy friend, Bobby. He is part Indian, Caucasian, and African American; smart and may be going to college in Boston, as has lived in the big city --the north where he is accepted; unlike this town, where he is treated like a second class citizen. She loves him, and he wants to help her find answers; and in the meantime, he may learn more about his past.
They are saying bad things about her mom and the danger intensifies the closer they get to discovering the truth; many clues leading them back to Hark Hill Plantation, a graveyard, a tree, a cave, encrypted messages, ribbons, a ledger, and some cruel and evil men – nothing will stop her and Bobby is beside her every step of the way.
In this stunning coming-of-age charmer, Mudas and Bobby, two teens take on the entire town full of evil, corruption, and prejudice as they fight all obstacles for justice, not only for their respective generation, but more importantly their family, and the strong women heroines who gave their life, as they help clear their names for generations to follow. A mix of murder, suspense, thriller, mystery, coming-of-age, and historical and southern Gothic fiction - crossing several genres.
Loved, loved LIAR’S BENCH and you will root for these teens, to the end (loved the grandfather, too). When I read the summary I knew I would adore, and immediately starting recommending to my Goodreads' friends, before I reached page fifty.
With a line-up of advance praise from my favorite authors:Beth Hoffman, Diane Chamberlain, Amy Conner, Jamie Mason, and Susan Wiggs; high expectations--Kim Michele Richardson, storyteller, lives up to every word, and does not disappoint.
An outstanding debut novel, (predict a bestseller) will warm your heart in this triumph over tragedy southern tale. Being in this age range, growing up in the south, Richardson is "right on" with dialect, atmosphere, and setting of these times of unrest, prejudice, and injustice.
Infused with vivid descriptions of nature, and true love explained through scents, and the strength of a strong young woman ready to shed her childhood ways for womanhood during a time before love, peace, and bell-bottoms---making an ideal selection for book clubs with some great discussion questions included.
I am looking forward to reading Richardson’s previous memoir:The Unbreakable Child: A Memoir About Forgiving the Unforgivable.
Fans of Dollbaby, Calling Me Home, The Right Thing, This Dark Road to Mercy, Snapshot, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Color of Justice, Necessary Lies, The Third Hill North of Town, and upcoming Lavina, will enjoy this entertaining southern gem. Highly recommend!
Photo credit: Andrew Eccles New York, NY
About the Author
Kim Michele Richardson resides in the rolling hills of Kentucky where she is a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and an advocate for the prevention of child abuse and domestic violence. She is also the author of the bestselling memoir The Unbreakable Child. Liar’s Bench is her first novel. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post and is busy working on her next novel, God Pretty in the Tobacco Field. Website
Look for Richardson's second novel, GOD PRETTY IN THE TOBACCO FIELD, coming Spring 2016, from Kensington Books. A young girl living in rural Kentucky in the ‘60s is subjected to grueling labor by her God-fearing uncle, and strives to find a ray of hope in her poverty-stricken town through her own tobacco patch, a forbidden first love, and her home-made paper fortunetellers.